Legislature live updates: Major Lombardo education bill advances without Opportunity Scholarships
The clock is ticking.
With fewer than two days until the Legislature’s 120-day session ends June 5, lawmakers are finalizing bills, amendments and making last-minute deals in an attempt to get their legislation and the state budget across the finish line.
As a backdrop to the negotiations, Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo has sparred for weeks with Democrats in control of both legislative chambers, with tensions most recently escalating into a veto of one of the state’s five major budget bills Thursday night.
But negotiations continue on a host of other major issues — from a major expansion of film tax credits to a public subsidy for a Las Vegas baseball stadium — as legislators head into the final days of session.
Check back for updates including highlights of bill signings, measures advancing through the Legislature and more. For the latest on what bills Lombardo has vetoed, click here.
After deal, Lombardo education omnibus clears Assembly unanimously
The Assembly voted 41-0 (with one member excused) to pass AB400 Sunday night, marking the latest major milestone for a scaled-back education omnibus bill sponsored by Gov. Joe Lombardo’s office that now includes no Opportunity Scholarship provisions at all.
The bill has become the centerpiece of a legislative battle between Lombardo and legislative Democrats over school choice. Since its introduction, top Democrats have repeatedly drawn a hard line on Opportunity Scholarships, a tax credit funded school choice program that would have vastly expanded under the original bill language.
As the issue spiraled into budget veto threats (and, later, one eventual veto), the proposals were removed by amendment late Wednesday as part of a compromise that moved the measure out of committee and on to the Assembly floor.
That amendment also removed other school choice proposals, including the creation of a new Office of School Choice, while leaving in place the potential for new county- and city-sponsored charter schools and the reinstatement of a retention requirement as part of the state’s Read by 3 program.
In a new amendment adopted late Sunday, those charter provisions were expanded again to re-include potential funding for charter school transportation, which would be doled out by the state’s Charter School Authority.
In its original form, AB400 had sought to significantly expand the scope and availability of Opportunity Scholarships.
As originally designed, that expansion included tying funding to a percentage of the state’s K-12 spending (which would have nearly quadrupled funding from roughly $13 million to roughly $50 million), with that percentage ramping up through 2032, to a maximum of around $500 million.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
— Jacob Solis
$100 million homeless services fund passes Assembly
A last-minute bill allocating $100 million to establish a matching fund to build out supportive services for people experiencing homelessness passed out of the Assembly Sunday night in a nearly unanimous vote (40-1).
The bill, AB528, is the joint venture of Gov. Joe Lombardo, Democratic leadership and the gaming industry.
As proposed, the fund could be used to provide awards to a developer that pledges at least a $75 million capital investment for the construction of a project meant to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness through services including emergency shelters, health care, job training and employment assistance, transitional housing, and affordable housing.
Following a hearing in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, the bill was amended to ensure the lead participant on the project is a Nevada nonprofit and extend a window of time to complete the project from 10 years to 30 years to align with other affordable housing projects.
Assemblyman Rich Delong (R-Reno) was the lone nay vote. The bill now heads to the Senate.
— Tabitha Mueller
Bill requiring insurers to cover gender-affirming health care awaits governor’s signature
Members of the Assembly passed a measure requiring health insurers to cover the treatment of conditions relating to gender dysphoria, a medical condition where individuals experience a mismatch between their gender identity and assigned sex at birth.
The measure, SB163, is sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas). The bill is one of three significant LGBTQ protection measures proposed by lawmakers this session. Though Lombardo signed one of the measures, SB153, on Wednesday, he vetoed another one of the three measures on Saturday.
The bill Lombardo signed requires the Nevada Department of Corrections to adopt standards and protections for transgender, gender nonconforming and gender nonbinary incarcerated individuals.
Members of the Assembly voted to pass SB163 Sunday night along party lines 26-14 (two members were excused), with Democrats in support. Members of the Senate also voted along party lines (13-8) to pass the bill on Friday.
The bill needs to return to the Senate for a concurrence vote on an amendment before it heads to the governor’s desk for approval.
— Tabitha Mueller
Street food vendor bill awaits action from governor
SB92, which would establish regulations for sidewalk food vendors, was delivered to the governor’s office May 31. Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas), the bill’s sponsor, said he is optimistic that Gov. Joe Lombardo will sign the measure.
The proposal would set requirements for licenses and permits for sidewalk vendors and allow county commissioners to establish hours of operation, sanitary conditions and a map of the areas where the vendors are allowed.
“It's exciting. When the bill started, I think there was a lot of hesitation. And I felt that perhaps many people didn't realize the problem — the magnitude that it was,” Doñate told The Nevada Independent. “To see it come all the way through this process with different stakeholders, it's probably one of the best examples of a bill that just serves the people, by the people.”
SB92 passed both houses almost unanimously. Republicans Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Henderson) and Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas) opposed the measure.
Because the bill made it to the governor's office during the Legislative session, the governor has five days after it was sent to him to sign it.
— Jannelle Calderón
Bill giving more DACA recipients in-state tuition heads to Lombardo
The Senate voted unanimously Saturday afternoon to pass AB226, which would allow recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to qualify for in-state tuition after living in Nevada for 12 months. The measure now goes to the governor.
Sponsor Assemblyman Reuben D’Silva (D-Las Vegas) said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Gov. Joe Lombardo will see that “it's good policy and he'll sign it.”
“At this point, it's just all about the governor's decision,” D’Silva told The Nevada Independent. “This is that point where you just send something over and then you hope that the government supports your legislation. That's really what it is.”
DACA recipients who graduate from a Nevada high school already qualify for in-state tuition at Nevada System of Higher Education institutions. This measure would expand that and allow any DACA recipient that has moved to the state to get those tuition rates after taking a high school equivalency test.
“We've worked the bill to a place where it's compliant with federal law ... But the fact that it got unanimous support in both houses, I think, is a good indicator that this is good policy,” D’Silva said. “It's also going to allow these hardworking immigrants the opportunity to access affordable college education. And we all know that that's the real path to the American Dream.”
The Assembly unanimously passed AB226 on Wednesday.
— Jannelle Calderón
New version of vetoed budget bill introduced
Lawmakers on Saturday night introduced SB511, a bill that a legislative fiscal analyst described earlier in the day as containing the “exact same” language as AB520, a major government funding bill vetoed by Lombardo earlier this week.
Also known as the Appropriations Act, the bill contains $7 billion in government spending — the largest amount from the state general fund.
Lombardo’s late Thursday veto of the original Appropriations Act, one of five major budget bills, had left lawmakers with just four days to either override the veto — an unlikely maneuver that would have required the support of at least one Republican senator — or introduce a new bill containing similar provisions to be signed by Lombardo.
The introduction of SB511 comes amid ongoing negotiations between Democratic legislative leaders and Lombardo over the state budget and the governor’s legislative priorities.
With a little more than two days until the Legislature adjourns, a Lombardo veto of SB511 would likely necessitate a special session to ensure lawmakers can fund the state's government before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
— Sean Golonka
Lombardo signs bill criminalizing mobile tracking devices without consent
Gov. Joe Lombardo on Saturday signed AB356, a bill that would criminalize the placement of mobile tracking devices on another person’s vehicle without their consent, with a carve-out for law enforcement.
Under the bill, a first violation would be a misdemeanor charge, a second offense a gross misdemeanor, and any further repeated offense charged as a category C felony punishable by between one and five years in prison.
Sponsored by Assemblywoman Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) and backed unanimously in both houses, the measure comes after a Reno-area private investigator was sued late last year by Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung for allegedly monitoring their movements with a GPS tracker during the 2022 election cycle.
Though the tracking was not a crime at the time it occurred last year, the suit claimed the tracking was a violation of privacy and sought to force the investigator to divulge his client’s name. In May, a judge sided with Schieve and Hartung in an initial ruling, though the case remains under appeal.
— Jacob Solis
Senate OKs $250 million for teacher, support staff pay raises
The Senate unanimously approved SB231 on Saturday, a bill that would create a $250 million pot of state matching funds aimed at spurring raises for K-12 teachers and support staff. It comes after an amendment was adopted defining those support staff — a group ranging from custodians to nurses to bus drivers — as well as appropriating an extra $41,000 for the Department of Education to cover additional personnel costs.
The measure now heads to the Assembly.
The matching dollars solve a technical problem for lawmakers, who have sought to address long-running calls to boost flagging teacher pay under a broader $2 billion increase in K-12 spending, but had no simple funding mechanism because of the way teacher pay levels are tied to bargaining agreements between teachers unions and county school districts.
Under SB231, the new money would match pay increases agreed to in future bargaining agreements, with disbursements formally OK’d by lawmakers on the Interim Finance Committee.
Though they still backed the bill, two GOP senators — Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) and Carrie Buck (R-Henderson) — raised concerns over the exclusion of charter school teachers from the bill language.
— Jacob Solis
Proposal for $100 million homelessness prevention and assistance fund
Lawmakers on Friday introduced AB528, a bill from Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) that would appropriate $100 million to a state account for supporting “qualified projects that are facilities to provide support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.”
The account would serve as a matching fund, basically allowing those funds to be granted to an organization that pledges at least a $75 million capital investment to the construction of the project — meaning an investment of that amount could qualify for $75 million in matching funds from the state.
The bill would require the total cost of the project to be at least $150 million.
An organization applying for the funds through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development would have to show how the projects would aid in economic development and help those experiencing homelessness become “economically self-sufficient,” as well as reduce the incidence of homelessness, decrease long-term reliance on social services and reduce criminal activity and recidivism.
— Sean Golonka
Bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday passes Senate committee vote
AB140, which was sponsored by Assemblywoman Clara Thomas (D-North Las Vegas) and would make Juneteenth a legal state holiday rather than just a day of observance. It drew several testimonies in support during its hearing in the Senate Committee on Government Affairs on Friday, and was passed unanimously with Sen. Skip Daly (D-Sparks) absent.
If AB140 becomes law, Juneteenth will be Nevada’s 12th legal holiday and would be observed on June 19, or on the Friday prior if the day lands on a Saturday, and on the Monday following if the day lands on a Sunday.
The bill requires a passing vote in the Senate to advance to Lombardo’s desk.
— Carly Sauvageau
White Pine School District pushing for $60M in funding to replace century-old schools
A day after lawmakers in an Assembly committee moved to advance a bill that would appropriate funding for an Elko County School District tribal school that officials said was “literally falling apart,” state senators showed less enthusiasm for a similar ask from the White Pine County School District to replace two schools that are more than a century old.
David E. Norman Elementary School dates back to 1909 and White Pine Middle School dates back to 1913. The district said both schools have “asbestos-laden infrastructure in floors, walls, plumbing and ceiling,” lack fire suppression systems and are limited or noncompliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Norman Elementary also struggles with poor indoor air quality and inadequate systems to allow fresh outside air inside.
SB100, sponsored by Sen. Pete Goicochea (R-Eureka), would allocate $60 million to the district to construct a new elementary school. The district, which includes roughly 1,200 students, is proposing to replace the existing schools with a single school to keep costs down.
Representatives for the district said it has previously sought other forms of funding, including applying for a state school construction fund, seeking public-private partnerships and looking into a variety of loan programs, but said those efforts were either unsuccessful or came short of funds needed to finance a new school. Goicochea added that White Pine County has the highest property tax rate in the state, but Paul Johnson, the district’s chief financial officer, said it isn’t enough and the district can’t ask voters for more support because the tax rate is at the cap.
“$60 million is too steep and it's just mathematically impossible given our current tax base and the tax structure for us to raise the funds on our own. So we're asking for help,” Johnson said. “We don't care how the help comes. We will embrace whatever help that we have.”
Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop (D-Las Vegas), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said she supports education projects because she feels lawmakers should be helping all kids, but noted there are many similarly aged schools across the state also in need of repairs and replacements.
“I think the hard thing is if I and the other legislators start to say, ‘How do we pick and choose our favorite kid?’” she said.
Other committee members suggested finding other “creative solutions” such as asking for support from neighboring counties and local mines and diversifying White Pine County’s economy. They also referenced AB519, which, if passed, in addition to appropriating $64.5 million for the construction of a new school in the Owyhee tribal community, would allow rural counties to raise property taxes and establish an account to assist rural counties in financing school district capital projects.
The bill would appropriate $25 million for capital projects for schools located on qualified tribal lands, and another $25 million for capital projects at all other schools. This account would act as a matching fund for the rural counties that decide to enact a tax rate outside of the cap for purposes of school district capital projects.
White Pine Superintendent Adam Young said while that helps, it’s not sufficient on its own.
“We're open to many creative solutions, but it is going to really be necessary for some type of an appropriation to occur in order for us to move forward,” he said.
— Rocio Hernandez
Policy that sought to reduce fees for commissary is heavily scaled back
Nick Shepack, deputy director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, is hoping that lawmakers pass SB416 to eliminate markups on hygiene products sold at the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) facilities, remove co-pays for medical services for those in custody and end room and board fees for offenders who work while incarcerated.
The bill would also group commissary products in with “inmate personal property,” which has strict regulations regarding storage to “ensure that no offender is in possession of more property than can be safely possessed.” Excessive personal property is confiscated.
Shepack presented an amendment earlier this week that calls for all commissary items to be in compliance with an NDOC administrative regulation that authorizes inmates to store personal property in one state-provided locker at the time of arrival and inside one fire-retardant box, which must be purchased. The bill passed out of the Senate on Thursday on an 18-3 vote.
Shepack wrote in a presentation that the policy was originally introduced as an aggressive attempt to “identify alternative revenue solutions for the inequitable and inefficient fees” accrued by inmates and families including cremation costs, 66 percent markups on commissary and electricity surcharges.
— Naoka Foreman
Lawmakers want to extend resources for young adults formerly in foster care
Sen. Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) is sponsoring SB380, which would allow the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services to extend past a 2025 launch date for an Extended Young Adult Support Services Program that was legalized in 2021 through SB397.
The policy allows child welfare agencies to submit a request to the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services to begin servicing Nevadans formerly in foster care who are younger than 22 with housing and financial assistance if sufficient resources are available.
If the request is approved, the division would be required to submit a report to lawmakers every six months, starting in 2024, that must include:
- The status of the implementation of the program;
- The progress of efforts to allow young adults to remain in foster care;
- Recommendations concerning additional programs to allow young adults to remain in foster care and;
- The progress of efforts to secure federal funding for the program.
— Naoka Foreman
Baby bonds bill passes a first vote after new language makes room for a lottery approach
The “baby bonds bill” (AB28) that seeks to help close the widening racial wealth gap in Nevada passed out of the Assembly on a party-line 28-14 vote Thursday after an amendment authorized a potential lottery for applicants. The change also caps the administrative cost of the policy at 5 percent of the money appropriated for the program.
Under the bill, Treasurer Zach Conine (the bill’s sponsor) can determine the number of beneficiaries for a particular year for whom the Trust Fund is available and select by lottery those who will receive a $3,200 bond that they could cash out at age 18, which is estimated to reach $10,000 to $13,000 each.
The program is designed to give Nevada children born into low-income families a financial boost as they enter adulthood to start a business, buy a home, attend post-secondary school or make any purchase or investment in “financial assets that provide long-term gains to wages and or wealth.”
— Naoka Foreman
Emergency rural hospital designations
AB277, a bill that would give certain rural hospitals an extra safety net by designating them as “emergency rural hospitals” — allowing them to shut down some in-patient services while keeping the rest of the health care facility open — was heard in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services last Thursday after passing unanimously in the Assembly on May 30.
Bill supporters said it could help address health care needs in rural areas such as Tonopah, which lost its only regional hospital in 2015.
“Be afraid, be very afraid. Once you’re south of Hawthorne, the next hospital is in Las Vegas,” lobbyist and retired physician Dr. Barry Cole said. “We need any options we can [get]; it was bad enough we lost Tonopah.”
— Carly Sauvageau
Lombardo signs bill protecting transgender and gender-nonconforming inmates
As states across the country are considering legislation aimed at restricting access to gender-affirming care, Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo signed a bill Wednesday that would require Nevada’s Department of Corrections to adopt standards and protections for transgender, gender nonconforning and gender nonbinary incarcerated individuals.
Sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), SB153 marks the first of three significant LGBTQ protection measures proposed this session to be signed into law. The governor has until Saturday to decide whether to approve a second bill protecting health care providers offering gender-affirming care (SB302) that passed on party-lines out of the Assembly and Senate. Supporters of the measure say that without it, providers may leave the state, further exacerbating the health care shortage.
The third measure, SB163, would require health insurance companies to cover treatment of conditions relating to gender dysphoria, a condition where individuals experience a mismatch between their gender identity and assigned gender at birth. The bill awaits a vote in the Senate.
Historically, insurance companies have exempted and classified such treatments as “cosmetic” and forced patients to pay for them out of pocket. However, in the wake of Nevada’s justice system siding with a patient suing a state-sponsored insurance plan for not covering gender-affirming care, advocates have noted that lack of coverage would be harmful for those in need of gender-affirming care.
—- Tabitha Mueller
Bill seeks $116K to reform sexual education
The Assembly Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that, if passed, would automatically enroll all eligible students into sexual education classes unless their parent or guardian specifies otherwise.
Nevada is one of the few states that requires schools to get written permission from parents or guardians before students can participate in sex education classes, also known as an opt-in system.
The bill, AB357, would convert Nevada to an opt-out system, in which parents or guardians would need to inform school officials that they don’t want their student to participate in sex ed instruction.
The bill would require the teaching of factual, evidenced-based sex education based on statewide standards set by Nevada’s Council to Establish Academic Standards for Public Schools.
“By recognizing the importance of updated sex education standards, we are taking a significant step toward ensuring the well-being of future success of our students,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, (D-Las Vegas) who is sponsoring the bill.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert estimates it would cost almost $116,000 to develop the standards and provide the training necessary to make sure they are implemented correctly.
Opponents of the bill were concerned that the council’s standards would take away power from local sexual education advisory committees, and that the change from an opt-in to an opt-out system would decrease parental involvement.
— Rocio Hernandez